Research and innovation in digitalisation in the food manufacturing sector has declined in the last year, analysis by GlobalData suggests.

The most recent figures show that the number of applications made for digitalisation-related patents stood at 53 in the three months ending February – down from 84 over the same period in 2021.

Figures on the number of patents granted followed a similar pattern to filings, albeit less pronounced – shrinking from 22 in the three months ending February 2021 to 19 in the same period in 2022.

The figures are compiled by GlobalData, which tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Using textual analysis, as well as official patent classifications, these patents are grouped into key thematic areas and linked to key companies across various industries.

GlobalData, Just Food’s parent, has identified digitalisation as being a key disruptive force facing companies in the coming years and is one of the areas that companies investing resources in now are expected to reap rewards from.

The data and analytics group’s figures also provide an insight into the largest innovators in the area.

Noodle maker Uni-President China Holdings topped the charts, filing 35 digitalisation-related patents in the three months ending February. That was down from 61 over the same period in 2021.

It was followed by PepsiCo with 18 applications, Ajinomoto with three and Unilever with two.

PepsiCo appears to have recently ramped up its R&D in digitalisation. It grew the number of related patent applications it made by more than 44% in the three months ending February compared to the same period in 2021 – the highest percentage growth out of all companies tracked with more than ten quarterly patents in the food manufacturing sector.